Victoria Secret Model Kylie Bisutti
From Scantily Clad to Truly Glad: Why Model Kylie Bisutti Walked Away from Victoria’s Secret
Written by Samantha Baer
Being called a “fat cow,” or being told your small frame needs to drop more weight is never something you want to hear, especially if you’re one of the top supermodels in the world. As Victoria Secret Angel of 2009, Kylie Bisutti rose to the pinnacle of her career triumphing over 10,000 other beautiful women hoping to earn the coveted title. But instead of basking in all the glory that comes with achieving your dream, she ended up walking away. Yes, you read that right; she left it feathers and all. Risen pulls back the wings from her Victoria’s Secret photo shoots, to insecurities, her strong beliefs, and why modeling lingerie made her realize that her body should only be for her husband.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: Did you grow up wanting to become a model? What has your journey been like to get where you are today?
Kylie Bisutti: I pretty much wanted to get into the modeling industry from a very young age. My parents said as soon as I was out of diapers, I was already talking about modeling. So I feel like it was definitely something that was on my heart for my whole life because I don’t know how any little two-year-old really knows what modeling is.
I was 14 years old when I actually got started. I traveled to Thailand to get my [modeling] book going. I lived in Las Vegas at the time so I did a lot of local stuff for magazines, Fashion Show mall, and different runways. When I was 16, I moved to New York and that’s when my career really started to take off.
Risen Magazine: There are so many different ways that talent gets discovered. When did you sign with an agency and how did it happen?
Kylie Bisutti: I signed with an agency when I was 14 years old in Vegas. I’m sure it is the same in a lot of places. People will just discover you when you are walking through the mall and ask you if you’ve ever considered modeling. So I kind of got discovered that way and also my mom had sent out some pictures of me when I was younger to different agencies in the area and one of the agencies in Las Vegas picked me up. They are the ones that sent me to Thailand and eventually to New York and Japan. It was pretty much a local agency where I got my start.
Risen Magazine: Since you were still a minor, how did your parents feel about you taking this path and what amount of influence did they have on your decision?
Kylie Bisutti: My mom came with me to Thailand. I went to New York by myself and moved into a “models” apartment which was just me and few other models that worked at my agency. I pretty much just lived there on my own up until I got married at age 19.
Risen Magazine: Who were some of the supermodels that you aspired to be when you were learning the business?
Kylie Bisutti: I’ve kind of always looked up to Tyra Banks because I used to watch America’s Next Top Model when that show was really popular. I just loved her and her personality and she was always really positive, happy, and very successful in the modeling Industry.
Actually, if it weren’t for me doing Victoria’s Secret, I wouldn’t have a platform now to talk to young girls about everything that I went through and everything that I’ve experienced.
Risen Magazine: Living in New York, traveling to Thailand…at what other fun locations did you work and how was your education handled through it?
Kylie Bisutti: I went to Japan for two months when I was sixteen, and of course when working with Victoria’s Secret I went to the Caribbean, but not for a lengthy amount of time. For education, when I was sixteen, I left high school and started doing an online program through BYU – I’m not Mormon – but that was the easiest to do because it was all online and you could pretty much just do it all yourself. I did not end up going to college. I also never really had the desire to since I was making so much money modeling – and that was really my passion -and you don’t have to go to school for that. So that worked out.
Risen Magazine: How did you feel about leaving high school early?
Kylie Bisutti: I was pretty sad having to leave high school because I was on the basketball team, as well as the track team, and sports were really important to me. I left mid season so it kind of sucked having to leave my teammates, but I still got to experience most of the stuff that high school students enjoy. I went to prom when I was a sophomore so I still got to enjoy that experience and all the sports, but modeling was really my dream so it was worth it to me to give that up and go ahead with the online route. I (actually) was made-fun of through high school so it was easy for me to leave because I didn’t really have a ton of friends.
Risen Magazine: While a big accomplishment for most 16-year-olds is learning how to drive, you had already started modeling and left the normal school setting. What did a typical day look like for you?
Kylie Bisutti: For the most part it was just castings all day long but it was kind of nice because you didn’t really have to get up early. You work when the clients want to work. Most of the castings started around noon which is a pretty good schedule and they would go to like 6 p.m. On average there would be four, maybe five, castings a day. On working days, jobs usually started pretty early in the day so you would just work rather than go to castings. Not a lot of clients worked on Sundays so you usually had that day off.
Risen Magazine: Becoming a Victoria’s Secret model is quite a status symbol within the modeling world now, how did you get picked to become an angel?
Kylie Bisutti: When I was pretty much newly married my mother-in-law had told me that she heard about a casting for Victoria’s Secret. I was living in California at the time, because that is where my husband lived, and New York really didn’t work out for us in our married life. She told me about this casting and I decided I might as well go on it. I did and I ended up getting selected for the final rounds that day out of a few thousand girls. From there they chose ten girls because they had four different auditions throughout the United States. So in total, there were about 10,000 girls that ended up auditioning for it and they chose ten from those girls. After that we all [model finalists] ended up moving to New York and pretty much competing, similar to America’s Next Top Model, but on a lot smaller scale; it was a lot quicker and there were less challenges. America voted and I ended up winning the whole thing!
Risen Magazine: How long was this process and were you secluded from your husband too?
Kylie Bisutti: I think I went almost a month without seeing him and then he was allowed to come [see me]. But he wasn’t allowed to stay at the house that I was staying at, and I wasn’t allowed to stay with him, but we did get to see each other and have dinners. The hardest part I would say was definitely being away from my husband for so long because we have a really close relationship – we have a hard time even going a full day apart, let alone a month.
Risen Magazine: Speaking of your husband… how did the two of you meet?
Kylie Bisutti: We met in Mexico on vacation. He was there with his dad, and I was there with my parents and we first saw each other at a restaurant at the resort. The next day we were going on a snorkeling excursion and he was on it as well so we started talking and pretty much the rest was history!
Risen Magazine: How did your husband feel about you entering the Victoria’s Secret competition? Was there a discussion beforehand or any hesitations?
Kylie Bisutti: There wasn’t really a conversation. He didn’t really express anything to me. I don’t think he really knew all that it would mean, being in the competition, posing in lingerie, and all that. He is very naive to the whole industry – that’s what I loved about him when I first met him. He didn’t even know who Heidi Klum was! And he didn’t even know what Victoria’s Secret was when I first met him. It wasn’t until I was always looking at the catalogs, so he only knew about it because of me. He didn’t really know exactly what came with being a Victoria’s Secret model so he was just really excited for me and really proud of me and he knew that it was something that I was really passionate about. Eventually, when he saw that I was posing in lingerie and doing lingerie competitions and he saw all kinds of pictures all over the Internet of me, it really started wearing on his heart and he started praying about it after that.
No matter how thin you got, or how in shape you were, they would still Photoshop you for catalogs or magazines…so you could never be perfect enough.
Risen Magazine: Did he approach you about this?
Kylie Bisutti: It was wearing on his heart a lot earlier than it was on mine and he was just praying about it. He didn’t really come to me. He just brought it to God and then eventually it started convicting my heart and that’s when I came to him and I asked, “Do you think what I’m doing is okay? Should I continue to do this? I don’t really know.” All he said to me was that he wanted me to make the decision on my own. But he did say, “How do you feel about me looking at other women in lingerie, or going online and seeing pictures of other women half-naked?” I said, “Well I wouldn’t feel good about that.” And he said, “That’s what all kinds of guys are doing with your pictures.” So it was really eye opening for me. I don’t want to be the woman that other wives husband’s are looking at.
Risen Magazine: Speaking candidly, there are so many men who share the same fantasy of marrying a Victoria’s Secret model… what were men’s reactions to you? How did you feel around men?
Kylie Bisutti: I know a lot of friends of my husband really thought that he was the coolest guy ever to be married to a Victoria’s Secret model. It was kind of a turn-off to me. That’s what they put their value in and my husband puts his value in my heart and my inner qualities rather than my success or outer beauty. It really made me appreciate my husband more. He wasn’t one of those guys excited to be married to me because of my modeling and my career. It was a good thing that a lot of his guy friends, and even my guy friends, reacted that way because it made me appreciate my husband more.
Risen Magazine: What about your parents? How did your dad feel about seeing his daughter in lingerie?
Kylie Bisutti: My dad loved it and was very proud of me. He was not a Christian when I was modeling with Victoria’s Secret. He didn’t see anything wrong with it and was always bragging about me. He was just really happy and knew that my dream was to be very successful in modeling and that this was the top of the modeling industry. My mom was as well. Now it’s a lot different. My mom is very happy that I’m not modeling lingerie anymore. She’s expressed to me how much that has affected her life and how she has a different perspective on life. My dad is now a Christian, and he sees that his daughter modeling lingerie for other men to see is not something that he’s excited about anymore.
Risen Magazine: When and how did faith start playing a role in your life?
Kylie Bisutti: I was 15 when I first got invited to go to church and ended up getting baptized. My parents were not Christians so it was a new thing to me and it was kind of weird how it all happened right before I moved to New York. I went to church by myself in New York, and actually when I first moved there it was really crazy because I’ve only met a handful of models in the modeling industry that are Christians, but the first girl that I met in my “model” home was a Christian. It was like God had it all planned for me to go there and already have a friend who had the same belief system. So we went to church together for the first couple of months and then she ended up moving, so I went to church by myself after that.
Risen Magazine: How did the other girls in the “model” home influence you? Was it hard to stick to your beliefs?
Kylie Bisutti: The other girls did a lot of partying. They would be out until 4 a.m. and would come back drunk because a lot of models get free alcohol. Club promoters take them to the clubs and give them all the alcohol and food that they want. Luckily, I wasn’t really influenced by those girls. I think that it was because I was a new believer at that time and I was really reading my Bible and listening to Joyce Myer tapes and stuff.
Risen Magazine: At any time while you were modeling, did you feel convicted or wonder if this was the right place for you to be?
Kylie Bisutti: It’s funny because I really feel like God had all of this planned out before I even started modeling. You would think that naturally I would be convicted because even at the age of 16-17, I was modeling without a shirt on. And obviously now looking back I see how sad that is, and how destructive that is. At the time though I didn’t see anything wrong with it – even being a new believer. I wasn’t convicted at all by it. So I really feel like I was just convicted in God’s timing after all the Victoria’s Secret stuff happened. Actually, if it weren’t for me doing Victoria’s Secret, I wouldn’t have a platform now to talk to young girls about everything that I went through and everything that I’ve experienced.
Risen Magazine: What advice would you give to Christian girls that aspire to be models? How can they go after their passion but still keep God first?
Kylie Bisutti: That is actually the most common question that I get from girls because I feel like whether girls are Christians or not, it seems like most aspire to be a model or an actress or some sort of celebrity. Now I actually just flat out tell them that it’s something I do not recommend at all. It’s an industry that I think is very destructive to young girls unless they are really solid in their walk with Christ and really know who they are in the Lord and are confident in the Lord. Because I just know how destructive that industry is. I was doing very bad things at such a young age and it could have very easily, outside of God’s grace, gone really bad. I’ve seen so many young girls with eating disorders, and I advise them to pray hard and examine their hearts to see if what they are doing is for the right reasons.
Risen Magazine: What about you in the future being a parent and having a daughter who would want to pursue this as her career, what would you say to her?
Kylie Bisutti: If I have a daughter one day and she wants to get into modeling, I am definitely going to encourage her not to. As long as she is under 18, I won’t be letting her get into modeling. After she is older than that, I hope that she will respect my decision [realizing that] I’ve already been through it all. But I definitely will advise for her not to get involved in the industry.
Risen Magazine: Modeling is an industry with extreme pressure on being thin. How did this effect you, your heart, your career and how did you react when they wanted you to be smaller?
Kylie Bisutti: It definitely had an effect on me. I’m very thin naturally and I always got made fun of and was called anorexic. I always thought that I was too thin and tried gaining weight. So you can just imagine how thin I already was. When I went to New York they told me I was too fat for modeling and called me all sorts of names like the “fat cow,” and “fat pig.” My hips were too big, my waist was too big, my thighs were too big…it really had an effect on me because I went my whole life thinking that I was too thin and they were telling me if I wanted to make it [as a model] then I needed to be even thinner. My mom knew this and when I would look in the mirror, I wouldn’t see who I really was [but instead] would see a fat pig and always wanted to see myself thinner. Thankfully, I never ended up with an eating disorder. But I definitely lost a lot of weight doing cleanses and stuff like that – I lost more weight than is natural. Even at that point I still saw somebody who wasn’t thin in the mirror looking back at me. Now that I am out of that, I just see me and not a delusion.
Risen Magazine: Do you still have pressure?
Kylie Bisutti: No I don’t anymore at all, thankfully. But I did for a lot of years.
Risen Magazine: How did your peers react to the pressure to be so thin?
Kylie Bisutti: I know a lot of the girls felt the pressure. Some would take liquid laxatives trying to dispose of everything they ate, some would throw up their food, other girls would just cry and become depressed because they weren’t thin enough. It really didn’t seem like anybody felt good about themselves. No matter how thin you got, or how in shape you were, they would still Photoshop you for catalogs or magazines…so you could never be perfect enough.
Risen Magazine: You’ve said, “There was always a constant struggle to be myself in the industry because it was always so superficial and demanding.” Can you explain a little bit about what that actually feels like?
Kylie Bisutti: Yes, it seems like no matter what you do – they always want some sort of change! I don’t know if it’s about control. I guess that’s just how the industry is but it is very disruptive and you really can’t feel like yourself or be happy with yourself because they’re always trying to change you. When I had brown hair they wanted to dye my hair blonde, when I had blonde hair they wanted to dye my hair red. Sometimes you’re too tan and they want you to be pale for high fashion, so they’ll tell you to dilute your tan to look more sickly. But then other times they’ll want you to be more tan. They always want fake hair in your hair, fake eyelashes, tons of make-up and then they always Photoshop you, so you really can’t just feel like yourself.
Risen Magazine: Every girl has feelings of insecurity at some point, and to hear you say “The further I fell into the dark hole of ‘Satan’s playground’ the more insecure and unhappy I became,” probably leaves most baffled. You appear to have it all or at least all the world has to offer. What brought out the insecurities and how were you able to identify and then ultimately conquer them?
Kylie Bisutti: What brought the insecurities on as I grew in my career and my success, was that everything revolved around my outer appearance. Once I was working with Victoria’s Secret, I had to always be super tan, I was always getting my hair done, I always had hair extensions in, I always had make-up on and it was like I always had to be this sex symbol all the time and never just be me for who I am. If there was a day when I wasn’t tan enough, or thin enough or I was bloated, it would cause all these insecurities and on top of that, they would Photoshop [my pictures] doing all these things to change and mold me. It just creates a very very insecure person because all of your value is placed on your outer appearance. They only value you for your looks and that’s it. You always had pressure to look perfect all the time because that’s what you were hired for and where your value was. I was finally able to get past that by putting my value in Christ because that’s something that I hadn’t ever really done in my life; my career always came first. Putting Christ before all that and putting my value in my inner qualities, the qualities that he looks at, allowed me to get past all those insecurities. Of course I still struggle with them here and there, and of course some days more than others, but I always work on trying to put Christ above those and find my value in him rather than my outer appearance.
Risen Magazine: When did everything change and was there a specific event or person that God put in your life? Or was it a gradual change of heart?
Kylie Bisutti: It was kind of gradual, but there was one really big turning point and that was after I had posed for FHM magazine. I really did things there that God convicted my heart of – things that were not honoring to Him or my husband. Obviously since FHM means “For Him Magazine“, it was me posing for other men. I mean my husband doesn’t even look at those magazines. So me posing for other men to see, that’s really when the Lord just opened my heart to all that I had been doing. He confronted me with the questions [to answer] of what kind of wife and role model he wanted me to be.
Risen Magazine: How did the conversation go with Victoria’s Secret when you decided to leave and stop modeling?
Kylie Bisutti: I just stopped modeling lingerie and swimwear all together. The lingerie first and the swimwear came a little bit later. It was really just my modeling agency. I signed with Elite and they pretty much handle everything as far as knowing what jobs I will do and what jobs I won’t do. Obviously before, I was open to everything. They have these [clauses] that say will you pose with: alcohol, tobacco, nude, lingerie, etc. When I was younger, I had in there that I would pose topless, in lingerie, and in swimwear. It is really a conversation with your modeling agency to tell them which jobs you will and won’t accept. They weren’t really happy with me when I told them that because obviously they were losing money on it and there were other clients that wanted me to do swimwear. I had to turn jobs down at that point because I made the decision not do any of those anymore.
Risen Magazine: So you didn’t necessary leave Victoria’s Secret, you just decided to not model specific things with them?
Kylie Bisutti: No, I didn’t do any more jobs with them after that.
Risen Magazine: How did you feel about your decision then, and how does it sit with you now?
Kylie Bisutti: I actually wasn’t really sad about it at all. I think in the beginning I was more scared of what other people would think, especially some members of my husband’s family that really put their value in that kind of stuff and success. So it was more what other people thought of me, I wanted to be accepted after that. I didn’t want them to think that I was just throwing my career away and not successful anymore. But when it came down to it, the Lord showed me that I was way happier and more fulfilled and I ended up not caring what anybody thought after that because I was so at peace with it all. My relationship with the Lord grew, my relationship with my husband grew, and I felt like it was the easiest step and decision in my life. Other than getting married and stuff like that, for my career it was a peaceful decision.
Risen Magazine: What has modeling been like for you since leaving?
Kylie Bisutti: It really cuts out a lot of jobs when you decide not to model lingerie or swimwear. My standard is that I won’t model anything where the ad is trying to sell sex or it’s provocative, even if I’m fully clothed. I have become more selective in jobs I take. And now, I’m not really doing much modeling because I’m so busy with my speaking engagements at a lot of different churches and I’m writing a book about my experiences. I have a Web site where girls can email me and ask for advice on insecurities, eating disorders, confidence and anything that has to do with the Lord and their relationship with Christ. It is really keeping me very busy and I’m a lot happier doing this. I feel it’s where the Lord has called me rather than doing modeling now.
Risen Magazine: Obedience to God and really pursuing His calling for your life is never an easy road, but it’s so clear how the Lord has been able to use you as a role model for so many. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through the process?
Kylie Bisutti: I would say that the most important thing that I’ve learned is that God’s first commandment says, “Thou shalt put no other Gods before me.” And I was definitely making modeling my idol. I put it before a lot of things in my life and definitely put it before the Lord. Once I started putting the Lord before my modeling, and focused on honoring him in making those decisions not to model lingerie anymore, it was then that I found true fulfillment in life, true happiness, and true confidence in him. I learned that by putting him first, truly first in all things, then everything else falls into place. I’m a lot happier and things are way better.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2012